ID this news story (Dimwit on Mt. Everest)

This is a news item I hazily remember reading 15 or so years ago: An idiot American rich girl went up Mt Everest, bringing such necessities as a battery-powered coffee grinder and three laptop computers. The expedition did not end well. Ring any bells?

I guess that it was Sandy Hill.

she had climbed before Everest and also she tried it 2 times before 1996

Did you miss the part that said: “Hill and the others were highly experienced climbers”?

I looked for the actual reports but was unable to find a link to Krakauer’s article in which he clearly portrayed her as a spoiled rich woman who had come for the ride.

I read the article online a few years ago, but it looks like Krakauer sued to have it taken down.

Addendum: Sandy Hill explains her coffee maker.

That’s clearly it, thanks!

I pulled my copy of Into Thin Air off the shelf. Here are some pertinent quotes (from Ch. 8). Note that Kraukauer calls her “Sandy Hill Pittman” as that was her married name at the time.

(The omissions in the NBC quote are in Krakauer’s book; the omissions in the main text are mine.)

Also note that Sandy Hill was 41 during the ill-fated 1996 expedition, so she wasn’t so much a “rich girl” at the time as a “wealthy socialite”.

Also note that Sandy Hill, though clearly idiosyncratic, belonged to the team that managed to get up and back with everybody intact - it was the team that John Krakauer belonged to that lost (IIRC) two guides and a number of paying members.

Into Thin Air is a great book BTW

Nitpick: The Mountain Madness team did not lose a paying customer. They did however lose their founder and chief guide, the legendary Scott Fischer, who was unable to complete his descent and died of exhaustion and blizzard not far from the summit. To hear Krakauer describe Fischer’s severe sickness in Camp IV, he should not have attempted the summit. (Being tired and sick seems to be normal for anyone high on Everest, but Fischer was far below his usual strength.) Mountain Madness also lost a sherpa who suffered high altitude pulmonary edema while hauling supplies prior to the summit, and passed away a few weeks later.

The Adventure Consultants team also lost its leader, along with another guide and two clients. The two guides lost their lives in an unsuccessful attempt to rescue a client who probably should have been turned back before the summit.

Yes; definitely a good read. Krakauer tells the fascinating story with minimal embellishment, letting the drama play out by itself.

The 2015 film Everest is also a good telling of the ill-fated expedition. There are definitely parts that are easier to follow if you’ve read Krakauer’s account first.

She actually accomplished a lot in her life. Her death was a calculated risk. Why is she, compared to other climbers deaths, a “dimwit” and an “idiot”?

It seems to me that there’s a semi-deliberate conflation of two things to “enhance” the story.

As best I can tell, Hill only brought all that equipment up to Base Camp at 18k feet. That doesn’t seem particularly strange; climbers spend several days there anyway, and there’s no reason not to be somewhat comfortable. The fact that DHL apparently delivers to Base Camp is perhaps additional evidence that it’s not really a big deal. There are several cities around the world at nearly the same altitude.

I don’t see any evidence that she brought more than her small coffee pot up beyond Base Camp. But of course the usual retelling of the story leaves out that distinction.

What’s even more remarkable about her death is that she’s still alive.


Damn these spoiled socialites. They can’t even be bothered to die like the rest of us.

Absolutely. There are still scenes which I distinctly remember, years after reading it.

Wow! That’s almost unprecedented.

Everest Base Camp is an incredibly isolated place and can not be compared to cities in the world that share its altitude.

One must first fly into Lukla (9300’) and hike down into the valley and away from the direction of Everest in order to sleep at a more comfortable altitude. From there it takes 8 DAYS difficult of hiking to reach Base Camp (17600’). I don’t doubt the DHL can hire a Sherpa to carry goods from Lukla to EBC, but he sure doesn’t drive there.

The small planes that fly into Lukla have very strict weight limits. People pay through the nose to bring heavy articles on board the flight. When I flew out of Lukla ( I hiked in rather than flying to Lukla ) to Kathmandu, each person and their luggage was carefully weighed.

Sure, but the difference is that bringing more stuff to base camp just costs more money.

No one’s risking their life hauling her coffee maker or fashion magazine to base camp the way they are getting things to the higher camps.

Oh sure, normally, but in this case…

What iamthewalrus(:3= said. My point about the cities wasn’t about isolation, but just altitude. 18k ft altitude is not inherently dangerous to be at, as evidenced by tens of thousands of people living nearly at that level. The same cannot be said for 20k+ ft.

Small planes always have strict weight limits. I’m sure that Hill did pay quite a lot for her Base Camp luxuries. But she wasn’t needlessly risking Sherpa lives by making them haul the junk further up the mountain. Bringing just one Sherpa to the summit imposes far more overall risk than a team of them hauling stuff to Base Camp.